WFH vs RTO: How and why we transitioned

As more and more businesses require employees to return to the office (RTO) there have been two popular, but cynical, takes on the trend. The first is that the businesses don’t want their offices sitting empty, especially if they own them rather than lease them. The second is that the businesses are control freaks and want to be able to once again monitor their employees every moment.

These takes are not completely wrong. There will always be businesses that make decisions based on dubious reasoning. But for most businesses that have more than a handful of employees, bringing them back to the office can be a matter of survival.

As a company that provides software development services and employs a large and growing team of software developers, we’ve felt the impact of Work From Home. It’s affected our staff and our operations to the point where we are now implementing practices to counteract it.

This article is a discussion about what we experienced during the COVID WFH period and its aftermath, what we’ve learned from it, and how we are changing the way we work to address it. 

How Work From Home impacted our day-to-day operations

During the early part of WFH under COVID we experienced minimal impact in our transition away from the office. This was due to all of our staff transitioning directly from the in-office experience where they all knew each other well and were part of the culture. 

It was during the later phase of COVID WFH, when everyone had undergone extended isolation and new staff members had joined us, that we started to see the impact on our culture and our mission.

The impact can be summarised in 4 words – Continuity, Clarity, Capability and Growth.

Continuity, in this context, includes maintaining a business’s culture, practices and institutional knowledge while also preserving staff development and advancement and integrating new hires into the business.

Clarity is having a clear view into the operations of the business. Some parts of this view can be found in reports. Other parts are found in meetings. Some parts are found only by in-person interactions and observations.

Capability is being able to execute at the level your business needs. The big challenge of running a business is you never have the perfect person for every role. You need to be able to work with the resources you have. But these resources might limit your options.

Growth is exactly what it is. It might be growth in product or service offerings or growth in size or growth in profitability.    

The impact of Work From Home on staff 

No-one can deny that people like working from home. At the same time, no-one can claim that everyone likes working from home or that everyone is better off working from home or that there are no negative consequences created by WFH strategies. 

What we found with our large team was that the people who fared best under work from home were in senior roles, had strong communication skills, and were in positions that required only minimal collaboration or reporting. Senior developers are an example of this kind of role.

On the other hand, we found junior developers were struggling to complete work. This caused them stress and in some cases anxiety. They suffered, their work suffered, and more pressure was put on senior developers to fill in gaps. But it was during lockdown and we all just soldiered on.

When we began bringing employees back to the office we found that many of our junior developers were still just that – junior developers. Despite the amount of time they had been with SoftwareSeni they had made little advancement in their skillset, including not just programming but the soft skills that are part of working within a team, as well as in carving out their own unique career path. We saw a similar slowdown in our mid-tier developers as well. 

We use a mix of formal and informal mentoring. Formal mentoring includes activities like shared planning sessions and code reviews. Informal mentoring covers all those little moments of learning and experience transfer that happen in an office. In an office environment it is easy to turn to someone more experienced for help when you get stuck. In an isolated environment like WFH, where finding a free coworker with the right experience and organising a video call and screen sharing is necessary to answer a question, that question might go unanswered, creating delays or resulting in a poorer quality solution. 

There is also learning by osmosis that takes place in an office environment. Being present while more experienced coworkers discuss problem solving and strategies for the problems they face is itself an opportunity for learning. 

You may be reading these examples and imagining solutions for each of them that don’t require working in an office. Just put a call out on Slack. Invite junior developers to Zoom calls. They look like solutions, but the level of friction in using them and the quality of the experience they provide results in worse results than simply being in the same space together. We know this because we had staff working from home for nearly two years using these “solutions” and things are going so much better now most of the team is back in the office. 

Bringing the team into the office is necessary for Continuity: continuity of our team members’ careers, continuity of inhouse experience, and continuity of “institutional knowledge” and our culture. 

Without this emphasis on maintaining continuity a business like ours with a team in the hundreds could see a collapse of our capabilities and our quality of execution drop to the point where we can no longer be competitive.

The impact of Work From Home on management

Goodhart’s law states “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”. This law is about how when given a target, like a KPI, people’s natural tendency is to optimise their actions and find ways to game the system to hit the target.

During Work From Home we found something similar happening in our regular meetings. It wasn’t malicious, it was just the outcome of the team striving for efficiency.

Since, of course, all our meetings were video meetings, we adopted clear agendas for running our regular meetings. We all knew in advance what needed to be discussed and we got through them quickly and cleanly despite the inherent clumsiness of group video calls.

But once we returned to the office it became apparent that what was being reported in the meetings had become a streamlined, tightly focused delivery of the agenda items. Issues of all kinds had developed in the business but they had fallen through the cracks of our carefully planned and cleanly executed meetings. 

The issues had been allowed to develop because as everyone was sitting alone in their home offices they weren’t just physically isolated from each other, they were physically isolated from the issues. And almost all the issues were complex and identifying them as issues from a single perspective was unlikely. 

You can’t have a report for everything. You can’t have a KPI for every facet of your business. Workflows can’t cover every situation. But there are still countless factors that need to be monitored and dealt with. 

They’re different for every business, they’re different for every department, and they’re different for every team. Seal everyone off from each other and you may never be able to connect the dots.    

Clarity comes from having multiple views of the same shared experience. Clarity comes from secondary sources, back channels, passing comments, and interactions with the team. This is where recognising problems and solutions begins. From here they end up in reports. 

Your team might not be ready for Work From Home

This is where Capability comes into play. Your business needs to be able to run, survive and thrive with the team you have available. What you can do is constrained by the skill and experience of your team.

We found performance under WFH was dependent on the skills of the manager. WFH, and remote work in general, requires a higher level of skill to pull off than normal in-office team management. 

It takes time to adjust to the different management style. Again, like our meetings discussed above, reducing all interactions to video calls that need to be scheduled or coordinated changes outcomes. 

Simple things that don’t need a meeting to be shared, like job status, hours worked, and so on, are easy to monitor. Addressing them, however, along with other more subtle concerns, like engagement, role clarity, skill acquisition, morale, and work quality, is made more difficult by the inherently confrontational format of a video call. 

One of our main services is software development team extensions. Remote teams as a service, basically. You would expect that we would be masters of remote team management. But the teams are remote teams only for our clients. All of our team members, before COVID, worked out of our offices. Part of our service is acting as a secondary level of management or as a team support role for our clients. This was done in-person until the lockdowns. Which meant our team support staff had to learn the new skills required to manage remotely. Some adapted better than others. 

How to grow if your Clarity, Continuity and Capability are impaired?  

Some businesses rely on employees executing in roles with basic skill requirements. Other businesses rely on a small number of highly skilled employees who can execute independently of each other. These businesses can continue to do well under Work From Home or with a fully remote team.

If you’re like us, where your team is growing, where you need employees advancing between roles, and you need the resilience of a team where knowledge is shared instead of siloed, then Work From Home is not the best option.

Growth for a business relies on having a long term vision and the strategies that support it. For SoftwareSeni, our team is the heart of our strategy: growing our team, helping them develop their skills, supporting them as they grow to be important contributors to our company and to our clients. 

With people at the centre of our growth and success, Work From Home has been a disadvantage. It didn’t stop us from delivering for our clients, but it did slow us down as an organisation. A big part of that slowing was the result of difficulties being faced by so many of our employees.  

A return to growth

In January 2023 we started bringing the team back to the office. With a couple years of remote work experience throughout the organisation, we have been able to approach it with flexibility. 

Some roles are able to split time between WFH and RTO, and most roles are able to WFH on the occasion where a stint of independent work aligns with current requirements. 

Clarity and morale, which is really the keystone of continuity, were the first and most obvious wins as the bulk of our team returned to the office. No-one would say they enjoy a return to commuting, but the ease of working in a team that is physically present, in terms of efficiency, quality and camaraderie, does help ease the pain.

The WFH period has left us a more flexible team and a more resilient team. This increase in capability is contributing to a new burst of growth as projects and inhouse programs that were planned during COVID and were waiting on our return to the office are now being implemented.

Not every business needs to work from an office. And there are probably very few businesses that need every team member in the office every day of the week. 

Looking at your business through the lenses of Clarity, Continuity, Capability and Growth, like we did, provides a clear structure for helping you decide where on the continuum between Work From Home and Return To Office your business needs to place itself.

How to recruit software developers in days instead of months

Despite all the tech layoffs it’s never been harder to find, filter, and hire experienced developers. Demand is through the roof for these roles, making recruitment long and arduous while all you want to do is get your app to market and keep revenue coming in. There is a shortcut that will get you the dev talent you need, but you will have to think outside the box you’re in.

There really is a developer shortage

And it’s getting worse. In the US, software engineering positions are expected to increase 22% by 2030. That means about 190,000 new jobs opening per year. But there are only  ~53,000 computer science graduates per year. Even with the tech layoffs in January 23 of roughly 40,000 that still leaves a shortfall this year in the US of 100,000 jobs.

The same thing is happening in Australia. There will be 100,000 unfilled software related positions by 2024. But Australia is graduating only about 8,500 (domestic) computer science students per year.

No wonder it can take months to recruit a software developer.

Use a team extension to hire developers fast and affordably

Team extension, also called a dedicated team, extended team or extended development team, is basically remote workers taken to the next level – featuring dedicated management, lower risk, and reduced costs.

In a team extension you work with a team extension vendor like SoftwareSeni to access their pool of software engineering talent. 

In SoftwareSeni’s case, we use a mixed onshore/near-shore model. You work directly with a project consultant based in Sydney, Australia. The SoftwareSeni talent pool is based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia’s tech hub. This provides a large time zone overlap for Australian businesses that makes developer integration relatively painless. 

To increase your team headcount you discuss with us your project and the skills and experience you’re looking for. SoftwareSeni then provides a shortlist of candidates for you to interview and select from. What can take 2 or 3 months (including negotiating salaries and paying $$$ to recruiters) is completed in as little as seven to fourteen days, with you knowing at the outset what your costs will be.

How is a team extension different from outsourcing?

In this era of remote work a team extension is no different to normal team members. The developers show up. You manage them and assign them work. They do the work. They attend meetings virtually. Just like the rest of your team. 

However, unlike other remote team members, they work out of the vendor’s premises. SoftwareSeni provides a second level of supervision that your other remote team members won’t have. This helps to ensure delivery of the high quality of service we provide all our partners. We also provide your team extension developers with technical and human resource support functions you don’t need to fund or deal with. 

Unlike a typical outsourcing arrangement, you are in complete control and have complete overview into the work your team extension developers are doing for you. And you can always talk to your SoftwareSeni project consultant if you’re not sure or have any questions or need insights.

How to start the rapid hiring process for your next developer

Start the process to hire your next developer in days by speaking to us. At SoftwareSeni we can help you to quickly finalise experience and skill set requirements based on your product goals so you can keep moving forward. At every step of the hiring process you’ll be in complete control of decisions and costs and be able to scale your team extension options up and down to match your budget.

Contact us to hire your newest developer, start building your team and keep your business moving forward.

Team extension, extended team & out-sourcing FAQ

Covered in this FAQ:


What is the difference between an extended team, a dedicated team, a team extension and staff augmentation?

These 4 terms all refer to using a service provider to source and contract remote workers on a temporary (though possibly long term) basis.

There is one stand-out – staff augmentation can be used in a more general sense. You can use staff augmentation to refer to placing people in multiple roles throughout a business. But extended team, dedicated team, and team extension refer specifically to adding people to a particular team or even a particular team project.

What is the difference between off-shoring, near-shoring, out-sourcing and an extended team/dedicated team/team extension?

Off-shoring is a general term that refers to using workers of a service provider in another country to fill roles or perform role-related tasks, within your business.

Near-shoring is similar to off-shoring but it implies that the workers are located in a nearby country or time zone to reduce the management and collaboration difficulties that working across widely different time zones can create.

Out-sourcing is when a project or service that would traditionally be executed in-house is handled completely by an external service provider. The service provider is normally located off-shore in an attempt to reduce costs.

Extended team, dedicated team or team extension is when a project team is expanded by the hiring of remote team members through a team extension provider. The extended team members working remotely report to the same management as the in-house team, they work side-by-side with the in-house team on any projects, and participate in all meetings, but all their necessary resources – computers, office space, HR, etc – are supplied by the team extension provider.

What is the team extension model?

Under the team extension model you are responsible for managing your own project even though the work is being done by external contractors. Under an out-sourcing model the project management would also be handled externally.

The benefits of the team extension model are that you have complete control over the project and complete visibility into how it is progressing. You can spot, diagnose and fix any problems as soon as they occur.

The drawback of the team extension model is that you need a competent project manager inhouse in order to see the project to successful completion.

What is the extended team model?

The extended team model, or the extended development team model, is just the team extension model by another name. You will see both used online. Which one an author favours depends mostly on which region they’re in.

What is the dedicated team model?

The dedicated team model is yet another term for the team extension model. It is used to make explicit that the team members you contract through your service provider are focused purely on your project. While this is the default whether you call it an extended team model or team extension model, it does serve to differentiate it from out-sourcing, where you have no control over team continuity.

What is a core team?

The core team is made up of inhouse employees who established the project and were solely responsible for moving the project forward before a team extension is added to the effort.

The core team holds the business and domain expertise that the project relies on. They work with the team extension members under a project or product manager to complete the project and serve as a source of guidance and deep knowledge for the extended team.

Why do businesses use team extensions?

A team extension creates three main advantages for a business. These are particularly beneficial when the business is following the extended development team model for software based products.

The three main advantages of a team extension are:

  1. Rapid hiring – team extension staff are pre-vetted by the service provider. Tell them what skills you need and you can be interviewing applicants for team fit on the same day.
  2. Access to expertise – depending on your local labour market, access to certain technical skills might be difficult or very expensive. A team extension provider enables you to hire outside of your local labour market, opening you up to a larger talent pool.
  3. Predictable and manageable costs – by extending your development team using the team extension model, your cost for the extended team members is fixed once negotiated with the service provider. Furthermore, the service provider is responsible for supplying office space and equipment for the extended team members as well as HR and other employee support services, limiting your costs to the agreed hours the team members work.

Who manages the extended team?

Unlike in out-sourcing, the management of the remote members of an extended team is handled by the business contracting them. This requires you to have an inhouse project manager experienced in dealing with remote team members.

Post-Covid this is now the status quo. But if a business has pursued a back-to-the-office strategy for their developers, care needs to be taken that the remote members of the extended team are fully integrated into the day-to-day operations and culture of the business and especially for the project they are working on.

What happens if an extended team member doesn’t perform?

In the unlikely event that a business believes an extended team member isn’t performing well, this challenge is resolved in a similar manner to how it would be resolved for an inhouse employee.

The situation is better than that with a standard remote employee, because the extended team member is also under local management and monitoring by the service provider.

If the problems turn out to be unresolvable, it is quick and easy to select, vet, and contract a new extended team member from the service provider’s talent pool, with extra assistance from the service provider for the handover.

What kind of work can an extended team do?

An extended team can be contracted to work directly on a project. This can be in order to access expertise to develop certain features, or to shorten timelines for project completion.

Outside of software development on a business’s product, an extended team can be contracted to provide support services, such as devops for an existing team or project, and to keep important and complex applications online and available to customers.

Moving beyond software, an extended team can provide design and UX expertise early in a project, as well as ongoing customer service support and technical support once a project is online.

What are the biggest challenges in using a team extension?

The big challenges in a team extension are simply variants of the same challenges businesses face with any employee. Onboarding is critical.

Having a manager or mentor available to chat or video call in order to quickly resolve the kinds of problems that show up in the early stages of employment will make onboarding easier and get members of the team extension working productively as quickly as possible.

The other major challenge is integrating the team extension staff with the inhouse team. But this can be handled by simply holding meetings, stand-ups, code reviews, etc, via video so that everyone can participate on an equal footing.

If you want more tips on managing an extended development team read our article The simple secrets to making your extended team work.

Where do you hire an extended development team?

Right here. SoftwareSeni is Sydney-based and our main focus is offering extended team services to Australian startups and businesses that think like startups.

This focus is why our talent pool is based in Indonesia. It provides an extensive time zone overlap with Australia that we find makes working with an extended development team so much more effective, both in terms of quality of communication and responsiveness.

Our team of developers (as well as design, UX, devops, and customer service) is based in Yogyakarta. The city is a major learning centre with a large, well-established tech culture. This has allowed us to pick and choose our team members to build the deep expertise that will benefit any project.

We can provide expertise at scales from a part-time single developer up to a team of dozens and for any stage of product development, from ideation to maintenance mode.

If you’re outside of Australia and have strong remote team management capabilities, you might still find the quality and range of our tech talent worth the larger time zone difference.

So if you’re looking to increase your headcount and are searching out tech talent to deliver the outcomes your business needs, get in touch.

10 SaaS startups that can cut months off your runway

As a LEAN+Agile dev house dedicated to building apps and websites for our clients, we are always advising our clients to buy functionality where they can instead of building it.

We are as aware of their runway as they are. And we’re dedicated to getting them to launch with the best MVP possible. And when speed counts and budgets are limited, and even when they’re not, we always go for buy over build.

Our clients are often surprised by not just the quality but the depth of functionality that is now available to be integrated via APIs from thousands of providers. 

Here’s a list of some of the more useful and powerful integrations you should be considering. Note – this isn’t a survey. We’re not providing options or reviews. Think of it more as a proof of existence and a starting point for doing your own dive into the SaaS options out there. 


Feed as a Service – stream

A news feed or activity feed with the rich interactions we’re all accustomed to – likes, tagging friends, etc – drives engagement. Feeds aren’t just for social sites. They’re for marketplaces, ecommerce, any app or website that involves events happening in realtime that someone somewhere wants to see. If you have a database its contents can probably be presented as an infinite scrolling feed to your users to like and share.

All that rich interactivity is complex and time-consuming to implement. Then there’s the technical difficulties involved in delivering the feed to all your users so they have a smooth, hiccup-free experience. You’re looking at 1000s of programmer hours whether you sit down and do it right and eat the delay, or launch with the basics working and iterate towards the complete solution.

stream provides APIs for client and server feed management as well SDKs for building apps and websites that integrate their feeds.


Authentication as a Service – Auth0

How many ways are there for potential customers to login and access your product? Email address + password? Social logins? Magic email link? SMS link? Let them use it anonymously and authenticate later? Multi-factor authentication using a code sent via SMS, voice, a one-time password app, a hardware key or biometrics? 

It depends, doesn’t it. But security is one of the hardest things to get right. A home-rolled solution will be enough for the early stages of development, but once you’re live on the internet your vulnerability is related to how much money, time and expertise you can spend on security.

Or you can use a provider such as Auth0 who is solely focused on secure authentication.  


Fraud Detection as a Service – Sift Science

As the pandemic created a surge in internet usage and online purchases, it also created a surge in digital fraud across both true fraud and friendly fraud categories. If you haven’t heard of friendly fraud, it mainly manifests as chargeback fraud – customers claiming they never received their order. 

Digital fraud requires cooperation and huge datasets to detect and defeat. It’s not something you can do on your own. Services like Stripe Payments and Sift Science integrate thousands of data feeds and signals – such as device fingerprints, transaction histories – to predict and mitigate fraud.

Should you be using their services? If you’re not sure, your accountant can probably tell you.  


Images as a service – imgix

Images have a huge impact on your users’ perception of your app or site. They can make it look more engaging, but due to their size loading them can also slow it down. If you rely on user-generated content, like a restaurant recommendation app would, or a marketplace, or you have your own deep catalogue of product images, then handling images and handling them well is an absolute necessity.

But manipulating images is technically challenging and delivering them quickly to your users takes planning and infrastructure.

Services like imgix save you from having to develop inhouse image editing and management expertise. It provides an API that can crop, resize and compress images, and a CDN for caching and delivering them to your users. 

You might say there are open source libraries for manipulating images and Amazon has a CDN, so why? You can ask the same question for every service in this article. The answer is time. Time now, as you move towards launch as quickly as you can, and time later, when you lose feature development hours to maintaining and debugging the code you wrote in house.  


Recommendations as a service – Algolia

You have an online store. It would be nice to increase Average Order Value by surfacing appropriate products for your customers. Where do you even start on that? Do your developers need to know statistics? Machine learning? Can you afford developers that already have the skills?

Even with a feature that will deliver a positive ROI it may end up being too expensive, again in time as well as money, to implement or just impossible. A lot of the modern user experience is pretty close to rocket science. But not everyone can hire rocket scientists.

But a service like Algolia lets you access that rocket science through an API that is easily integrated and with pricing that is easy to sign off on.


User Comms as a Service – twilio

There are dozens of services that will help you put a chatbox on your site or in your app. Making it easy for a customer to talk to a rep to help boost conversions is a strategy that is growing in popularity as it gets easier to implement.

A text chat today might lead later to a call to support after purchase or an email with warranty information or a newsletter with your latest offers.

We’re highlighting twilio for this category because their service offers APIs that allow you to integrate chat, voice and email comms with your customers. On top of the comms, it allows you to unify all your interactions with each customer to streamline engagement and allow you to personalise their interactions with your business.

This is the kind of feature you don’t even dream of being able to build for yourself. You use theirs and you’re grateful you can leverage it to your advantage.     


Payments as a Service

This is a no-brainer. There is no question you are going to use a third party payments API. You’re trying to launch here, not reinvent online banking. The question you have to answer is which one, or which ones, are you going to integrate?

And are you going to stick to straight payments through a service like Stripe or are you going to integrate a Buy Now Pay Later service like Afterpay or Klarna? 


Onboarding as a Service – Pendo

For an app or site of any complexity one of the biggest challenges is onboarding new users so they can use your powerful features, recognise the value of your product, and become long term customers.

This onboarding is handled by tours using on-screen pop-ups and overlays. The value is in the tour, not in the code that animates the tour.  

The advantage of integrating a service like Pendo is that their implementation of product tours has advanced to the point where it offers authoring tools. This frees your developers from having to dedicate time to what is intrinsically a marketing function. 

Pendo also collects data so you can see which features are being used, allowing you to continuously improve your onboarding experience and profit from it.


Shipping as a Service – ShipEngine

If your business deals in physical items then you’re going to be dealing with the headaches of shipping. It’s a time sink that cuts into the profits of every transaction.

Services like ShipEngine let you use a single integration to hook into a network of delivery and logistics companies, allowing you to optimise your costs and helping quickly and painlessly arrange local, national or international deliveries.

Security as a Service – Wazuh

Your business is online. You have a server. Perhaps multiple servers. They’re all connected to that hive of scum and villainy that is the modern internet. What are you doing to keep your business secure? How much time and how many developers and devops can you dedicate to security? 

Staying current with threats and mitigations is a full-time job for a team. Being able to lean on the smarts of a large, dedicated security team through services like Wazuh reduces the risk of you being knocked offline or worse. 

Are you going to buy or build?

Software is a different kind of business. And if you have a website or an app make no mistake, you are in the software business. Pick almost any portion of an app or service and a deep expertise is either necessary or provides a huge advantage. 

This is what makes SaaS such a pervasive model. It’s the expense of expertise distributed across hundreds of customers. This business model is creating the re-usable modularity of functionality that software businesses have been wishing for since the 80s.

Any app can now launch with top-tier features in a fraction of the time and the fraction of the budget that was possible just five years ago.

You might worry about lock-in, and seeing money going out the door to other services might cause you physical pain, but that’s a problem that can be solved down the road when you are big enough for it to matter. 

For launching a new website or app, a strategic set of SaaS services can get you impressing customers and pulling in revenue faster than you can imagine, no matter how many developers you have.

If you want to talk to us about your own buy vs build challenges or you’re looking for extended team members to help you build, get in contact with us. We’d be happy to discuss the options open to you.

The big $$$ questions about app development answered

We see the same questions about app development coming up again and again. It’s no surprise. More and more businesses are recognising that they need apps. Developing apps is a complex and opaque process. They’re big ticket items where unscrupulous operators don’t want to share numbers until they can guess how much you have to spend.

We’re going to fix that. By answering your questions. Many of them are of the “how long is a piece of string” variety. We can’t tell you how long a piece of string is, but in our answers we do give some recommendations on how you should be thinking about your string. Or, for this article, how to think about your app and how you’re going to get it built.

Q: How much does app development cost?

Short answer: Under $50,000 for a simple app. Under $150,000 for a basic app. Over $150,000 for a complex app.

Long answer:

You need to be comfortable with spending 5 and 6 figure sums if you want to build a competitive app. If you don’t think you’re going to earn the money back then now might not be the right time to start the process. Maybe start with a basic website.

The cost at each tier comes down to complexity. That complexity is a combination of frontend features, backend/admin features, third party integrations, the amount of business logic that needs to be encoded (after being documented!), and the variety and volume of traffic and transactions your app needs to handle.

A short discussion with us about your app, your market, and the features you want would enable us to tell you which range your app would fall into.

Q: Why does app development cost so much?

Short answer: Details x Time x Expertise

Long answer:

We understand this question. Unless you have worked as a developer on multiple similar projects it can be impossible to look at the screens of an app and see where 5 and 6 figure sums were spent. Hint: a lot doesn’t show up in the user interface.

App development costs what it does for two main reasons: it requires expertise and it takes time. And then there are the details. Building software is all about managing a mind-boggling number of details. It is not unlike building an actual sized house out of Lego bricks. Individually positioning all those little pieces adds up to a lot of time. And you need people who know how all the pieces fit together.

When looking at the cost it helps to remember app development is an investment. You invest in an app to generate revenue. Much as you might buy a machine for a factory, or pay to rent, fit-out and stock a brick and mortar retail store. You expect your big investment to give you more in return.

Of course you’re cost conscious. You spend your money wisely. That is why SoftwareSeni provides full transparency during the entire app development process. You can see the time spent at each stage of app development and even for each feature. Also for all the code that doesn’t touch the screen – the integrations with other services, the code that talks to the database, the code that creates the backend that your business will use.

Q: How long does app development take?

Short answer: At least a couple of months to launch. Then months to polish. Then years to grow.

Long answer:

Our business philosophy combines Lean and Agile methodologies. Under Lean, businesses want to be launching an MVP (Minimal Viable Product) as soon as possible to verify their idea, start gaining users, and start generating revenue.

This is done by implementing features in two-week work blocks called sprints under Agile. You won’t be launching your MVP app after 1 sprint, but 4 isn’t impossible, and 6 is feasible. All depending on your feature set and how far advanced your product conception is, of course.

And once launched, new features continue to be added using two-week sprints, along with addressing any user feedback received along the way.

This process results in lower upfront costs, puts a working Android app or iOS app, or both, in front of your customers sooner, and enables you to start generating revenue sooner.

Q: How big a team do you need for app development?

Short answer: 3-5 depending on the stage of development.

Long answer:

The app stores are filled with apps built by a single developer. So is that all you need?

Maybe? But there is only so much a single developer can do in a week. Or a month. There are only so many facets of app development a single developer can be an expert at. And how many developers are also experts at graphic design or UX or at running user testing?

And the big issue with a single developer – it only takes a single accident, or a single personal crisis, for your app development or app support to grind to a halt. What business wants to take on that risk profile?

A serious app, with a sensible launch schedule, that looks good, that works well and continues to work, requires a team. The size of that team depends on the app, its features, and how the development can be scheduled. But we find that, on average, at any particular stage of the app development process, you need about 3-5 people contributing.

It is a truism of software development that the best way to slow down a project is to throw more people at it. At SoftwareSeni we have launched enough apps, and our teams have collaborated on enough of these apps, that we’re pretty good at putting together the optimal team for creating your app.

Q: Should I develop an app?

Short answer: If you have to ask then you should develop a website first.

Long answer:

An app is a major investment. Are you sure you’re going to get a return on that investment? If you’re not sure, if you don’t have a ready market or an eager customer base, then it will be wiser to test your business idea using a website first.

A modern website, designed to be mobile-first, can approach the user experience of a dedicated native app with a lower upfront investment while providing you access to the entire global marketplace across all devices, not just phones.

Q: Should I develop an Android app or an iPhone/iOS app?

Short answer: Android if you want market reach, iPhone/iOS if you want to charge a premium.

Long answer:

In most of the world Android is the dominant mobile operating system, holding about 75% of the global market. But in some markets, like the US, UK, Canada and Australia, iOS holds more than half of the market.

This difference in market share, and user base, leads to a non-intuitive result. Global non-game app revenue in 2020 was $32.1 billion. Despite its smaller global market share, at about 25%, iOS apps captured $24.7 billion, or 77%, of that revenue.

The decision to develop an Android app or an iPhone app comes down to knowing where your audience is and what your goal is.

For markets like Australia, USA, UK and Canada, where the market is almost evenly split, it’s lucky that there are frameworks like React Native that make developing apps for both platforms financially feasible. But still we would recommend focusing on your iOS app first, because that platform will likely provide most of your revenues.

Q: How long does it take for an app to earn back its development cost? Also: How long does it take for an app to cover its running costs?

Short answer: If you read the first question you already know the answer.

Long answer:

This question is looking at app development backwards. You should not be spending money on developing an app, or purchasing any asset, without forecasting or modeling costs and revenue.

The real question should be: given my forecast revenue and current budget, can I build an app with the planned feature set, keep it running, and market it?

(You don’t want to forget your marketing budget. Expecting enough people to simply stumble across your app is not a path to success.)

If the answer to the real question is no, you don’t have enough money to do all that, then you are left with three options:

  1. Don’t develop an app. Put your money towards another revenue generating project.
  2. Reduce the scope of your app. Will a simpler, less expensive app bring in enough revenue to fund further development?
  3. Build a website instead.  A Web app or a dedicated ecommerce website development is a faster way to reach an even larger market. Websites can have app-quality interaction (at a price). This approach can allow you to invest even less up front and still have a foundation you can extend as revenue grows. With proper planning, converting it to an app when revenue allows can be quite cost effective.

Still have questions about that app you want developed?

Hopefully by answering the big questions about app development we’ve helped you think strategically about getting your app developed.

If you find you have more detailed questions on costs and starting app development then get in contact with us. We’re always up for a chat and we love finding revenue-focused solutions to app creation.

Now, if you feel like you want a little more background on app development before talking to us, we have written a series of short, easy-to-read articles on the process:

A quick guide to Agile for businesses and start-ups
What is product conception and how to do it
How to prototype your app
Business rules and the business logic that drives your app
How the app development process works

Also, here are two articles that will help with your decision making:

Should you build an app or a website?
Fixed price contract vs Agile for app development

Contact us here for any questions you still need answered.